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ScreamingDingo

Regret

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The canopies would encase the area in the deep tones of green that would collapse over the forest, a dreary yet peaceful sign of nature as a lone man would traverse through its bed. The branches would swing and rustle, ever following the intruder upon their space with each movement meticulous. The wind would stain itself with the scent of pine, with the suffocation of the senses through overwhelming the mind and body which would hinder most except for the intruder below.


 

The symphony of nature and its true personification, nothingness. The stillness of the air and forest were mesmerising to him, but this had become his haven away from society. He’d approach the entangled ruins, his cloak of leather shifting which each movement as the man would embark on the journey to traverse the jutting peaks of stone that would break from the density of the forest. Where the wind would linger briefly and then pass by without another trace, where the birds would not perch and sing, this was where nature had overtaken man. His boots would clatter against the stone, their make allowing for the outlying stone to not be any burden to his journey.

 

Time had passed as he entered the heart of the ruins, a lone map would sit in the center of the outlying area. The surrounding outcrop of the wilderness was encamped by four distinct areas to each cardinal direction, a fortress and outpost to the west and south, with a hamlet and a military camp to the north and east respectively. The inner depths of the forest sanctum were scrawled with previous markings either done by the man himself, or wherever this map was retrieved from. A tattered banner of red and yellow would be in the corner of the small area, hung up next to a makeshift weapons rack that would hold the man’s arsenal. An arbalest would lay on the bottom, while two axes would drape themselves across one another by the branches of the rack. One head made of silver and the other made of steel, yet both stained with blood and showed obvious wear. The man would drop his hood to revealed the disheveled appearance beneath it, age had taken his toll upon his entire form it seemed. His eyes carried the murky brown that most low-born were accompanied with, while the fuzz of grey would overtake his defined features upon his jawline. Streaks of grey would come through his mattered and otherwise dark hair, which hung loosely below his ears and glanced against his shoulders.


 

A simple sigh and a yawn came from the man as he’d approach the other side of the small hideout, where a hole would be dug out and a large metal pot would be draped upon it. A contained fire it seemed, where smoke was to be hidden when possible. He was nestled between two sets of decrepit walls, where both of his flanks were covered by high outcrops that lead further into the forest. Contained and secluded, it is all that the man wished for. He would unclasp the cloak that would hang from his neck and place it over near the dug out pit, a cracking of joints and bones following as he would roll his neck around. After such a movement, the man would unclasp each of the straps upon his leather gloves. Distinct clicks and rattles coming from the glove before the man’s flesh would be revealed beneath. A scarred and brutalised hand, a faded brand wrapping itself around his palm and over the back of it. Though, it reached within the pot and grasped onto a morsel left from the last few days, the softness of meat before it rots is the most tender. The man would then slip the morsel of meat into his mouth, a squelched smack of his lips as he’d chew upon the meat.

 

The silence would linger for the moment before it’d be broken by the sudden snapping of branch from the upper outcrop, the man’s vision shifting as he’d spot the yellow and red banner now raised from that position. The cascade of metal and men would fill the otherwise silent outcrop as soldiers would rise from the foliage, arbalests and swords at the ready as the men would assemble. But the single man would simply stand there, his finger slowly removing itself from his lips as he’d come to the realisation of what happened. The last morsel, the last piece of life within his pitiful existence.

 

“Stand down! We of the Barony of Braibent have come to claim the bounty upon your head, of ten thousand marks!”

 

The order would be simple, yet the man would gaze over to the other side of the outcrop where an almost mirror like assembly would make itself apparent. The man’s eyes would dart to each of the men, remarking their weapons and form. Though his count would be lost as he’d reach at least the tenth man on the adjacent outcrop, outnumbered, overwhelmed. Crossbows and arbalests were trained upon the man’s figure, the ever watching eyes and the judges of his next few moments. His dried and cracked lips would purse for the minute, then part as he’d speak.

 

“You have got me, you have heard of my reputation have you not? I have hid and slaughtered more insurgents than you have within your pitif-”

 

Sometimes silence is truly the answer, as the man would speak to the outcrop in front of him a violent snap would be heard from an arbalest. The bolt flying through the air and tearing through into the lower back of the man with a sickening squelch, the leather gambeson doing truly nothing as the man’s knees would buckle from the shot. Shock, realisation as pain would flood his body, the flaring of his back and each muscle twitching. His eyes widening as the coordinated strike would not cease, another bolt loosed from the back as it would strike into his right shoulder. Another squelch, another stagger as he’d shift his foot forward only a single pace. His eyes would droop as he’d hold his tongue, he did not wish to scream, he did not wish to plead, he only wished to observe. Through the darkness that now encapsulated his vision, a gauntlet would sent outward to point towards the staggered man.

 

One…

Two…

Three…

 

The strikes would come one after another, each bolt burying themselves deep within his form. The first one was towards his upper leg, flesh tearing as he’d buckle from the strike. Yet the second followed through with its course, aimed towards the center of his back. Another sickening strike as the bolt would eviscerate the flesh it would enter, another jolt of pain coming forth as his head would reel upward from the pain. The third, the flesh in the back of his neck would split as the bolt would tear straight through his tendons. His head raised for the moment would be followed by an attempted scream, but yet the bolt caught on to any words that may have come from his throat. The head of the bolt would protrude outward, the tip just passing by his chin as he’d gurgle and splatter upon his own blood. The stones around him now dripping into a pool of crimson, dragged from the first shot, yet now he would not see anything else.

 

His last words were stammered, croaking as blood would fill his final moments. The horrific sensation of drowning was something people can imagine, but when the water is replaced by the warm ichor that flows through you, it creates a crueler fate that many would never wish to face.

 

“Why did I join them.”

 

Darkness would fade over the man, a final thud coming from the man as he’d collapse in his own blood. The last volleys of the arbalestmen would unload themselves onto the corpse, yet the corpse was not even a man anymore.

 

He was target practice.

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